America’s foremost gay Republican group, which did not endorse Donald Trump for president last fall, is throwing its 40th anniversary party next month at his Washington, D.C., hotel.
The Log Cabin Republicans booked the venue in March, before the president signaled his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
“Our desired original venue was unable to accommodate us on any of our desired dates,” Gregory T. Angelo, the group’s president, told TheWrap, adding that “the Trump Hotel gave us a very competitive deal.”
Asked whether the group has considered a venue change in light of the growing backlash over the president’s tepid response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, the group said there has been “some discussion but with barely a month until the event and every prime hotel booked a change of venue would be impractical.”
“We are not making a point of showcasing the venue, and we were never going to,” Angelo said. “If this event was promoted as ‘A Celebration of Trump’ or featured him as a speaker, criticism of Log Cabin Republicans would be more than warranted, but that’s not the reality.”
Gay advocacy groups have been largely critical of Trump. In February, the Department of Justice dropped its defense of Obama-era protections for transgender students in a key lawsuit. Trump then signed an executive order that rolled back an Obama administration initiative prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT advocacy groups have also opposed the nominations of several Trump appointees who they deem anti-gay, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
In July, Trump tweeted his plans to ban transgender soldiers from serving in the military — perhaps the biggest blow to the LGBT community, which had spent years and much of its political capital overturning the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
“I don’t think anyone anticipated this,” Angelo told Salon in July about Trump’s proposed transgender ban.
The group had flirted with endorsing Trump during the early days of the 2016 presidential cycle, calling him the most pro-LGBT Republican candidate in American history, but eventually withheld its endorsement citing unpredictability.
“The overarching reason… was the high degree of uncertainty about what a Trump administration would look like for Log Cabin Republicans and LGBT Americans in general,” Angelo said in statement right before the presidential election.
The sleek hotel bearing the president’s name has been the subject of intense scrutiny. Critics have argued that the hotel provides lobbyists and foreign governments a way to curry favor with the president simply by booking rooms or renting out conference or banquet facilities there.
After growing backlash, Trump promised to donate hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. But less than six months later, the Trump Organization announced it did not plan to fulfill that promise.
Several foreign governments have rented space at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., since the inauguration. The hotel received nearly $270,000 from Saudi Arabia, which had been pushing the U.S. government to drop legislation allowing U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments over terrorism. (Trump has since announced that he would donate the money from the Saudi payments to the U.S. Treasury by the end of the year.)
Trump International Hotel was projected to lose $2.1 million in the first quarter of the year, according to The Washington Post. Instead, it took home nearly $2 million in profits this year, according to multiple media reports.
The group insists it’s a non-issue, citing better than expected ticket sales.
“We’re already at more than two-thirds capacity — the fastest buy rate I have seen for our annual dinner in the five years I’ve headed Log Cabin Republicans,” Angelo said. “Our dinner always sells out, but we’re on track to reach capacity sooner than we ever have in the past.”